Saturday, December 22, 2018

Can Reindeer Really Fly? A Seabury Inquiry STEAM Hands-on Project

According to the Cougar Mountain Zoo newsletter, (and upon this first grade teacher's further investigation into Robert Sullivan's  book, The Flight of the Reindeer), perhaps they really can.

"North of Canada there is a large piece of land called Ellesmere Island. The northern tip of the island reaches into the Arctic Circle. Winters are very harsh there, and cold winds blow up to 150 miles an hour. To put that in perspective, a category 4 hurricane has 140 mile an hour winds; that is strong enough to blow roofs off of buildings, blow cars through the air and turn buses onto their sides.

There is a little reindeer called the Peary Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus pearyi) that lives on the northern part of the island and thrives under these terrible conditions. They are the smallest of the reindeer, reaching only about 3 feet tall at the shoulder.... 

People have seen these little reindeer get picked up by the Arctic winds and lofted into the air. The reindeer have been seen flying as far as 150 feet. That is farther than when the Wright Brothers first flew their flying machine at Kitty Hawk. It is these Peary Reindeer that gave rise to the stories that we hear about Santa having his sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer to deliver presents on Christmas Eve." 

The first and second grade students had quite the debate. Even the teachers were perplexed by this newsworthy research. Do reindeer really fly? 

Hmmmm... we had keenly observed the reindeer at the zoo. And we came up with some hypotheses:

We remembered that their hair is hollow. 
So maybe they don't weigh as much as other animals their size. 

We noticed that maybe their antlers are sorta shaped like airfoils.

But we still weren't quite sure. 
So we went to work on making our own reindeer to test their ability to fly. 

We got supplies, including feathers, from the MakerSpace...

and started to make and test reindeer. 

There are a lot of ways to make antlers. 

Some used cartons for bodies and Popsicle sticks for antlers. 
And we didn't forget a red nose!

We discovered that feathers weren't enough. We needed to add some type of lift force. 

The weight of the reindeer, especially with the top heavy antlers, was countered by the lift of this pink airplane and a few feathers.

The canopy/parachute on top of this reindeer 
didn't keep this reindeer aloft very long. 
This design especially needed some lift. 

Why not go for double lift? Will it fly farther?

We tested our reindeer and most of them flew, with the help of some heavy duty thrust against the drag.
One even flew 25 feet!

After our testing, we were still a bit skeptical 
about the ability of reindeer to really fly. 

Here are our diagrams and our conclusions 
to the question, "Can reindeer really fly?"

"I think reindeer fly with Magic Corn."

I think they fly because their antlers get caught in the wind and I think also that their legs move to make them go."

"They probably have magic."

"I think that the tiniest reindeers fly Santa's sleigh, 
because they can get their body right off the ground."

So do reindeer really fly? Is our resource reliable? Should we enter the debate of real news/fake news?

Not yet. šŸ˜„ For now we're content to understand 
that reindeer need some help 
to counter drag and gravity 
and/or some help from magic corn!

red nose running GIF by KochstrasseĆ¢„¢

This teacher now believes! 
(tongue in cheek)

Now your turn to do the research and test for yourself:

Friday, December 21, 2018

Going to the Principal's Office! Oh, No? Oh, Yes!

When first graders write fantastic stories 
and share them with their principal, it's a win-win situation! 

The students get the satisfaction of a job well done 
and she gets to share jelly beans!

When the two go together there are a lot of


Here we are, sharing our "If I Were an Explorer" stories 
with Ms Wollum:

"Publishing" a book is an authentic way for students 
to experience the thrill of writing. 

You can find our finished compilation of stories 
in our classroom and in the Seabury School Library. 

If you check it out you might not get a jelly bean, 
but you'll definitely get a smile on your face. :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

How Do Birds Fly? Bernoulli's Effect for First Graders

The question of the week has been, "How do birds fly?"

To answer this question, we did some experiments 
and discovered how moving air affects objects it encounters. 
The results surprised us. 

We are TOTALLY engaged in doing experiments!

When we blow between two balloons, instead of the balloons going apart they come together. 

We're learning how to write up scientific lab reports.
Diagrams and labels are encouraged.

See the air blowing between the balloons 
and the movement of the balloons towards each other? 

We also are encouraged to use words to describe it. 

We then blow over a strip of paper and under it. 
We expect it to go up when we blow under it 
and to go down when we blow over it. 

It goes up for both!

Notice the dominating art style of the year - fancy eyeballs. :) 

The paper strip also scwiggles!

Next experiment: when you blow air 
through a straw next to a lit candle, 
we expect the candle to go away from the air.

But it blows towards the air!



After watching a few videos, we discover there are four forces involved in flight, including lift!

We're beginning to understand 
the forces behind the wonder of flight. 


Monday, December 17, 2018

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon

There are certain books that we come across that teach science much like the Seabury teachers teach our gifted young students. This is one such book. 

Here are a few ways our students act and think like the artist and scientist, John Audubon:

  • As a young boy, Audubon had a focused passion for learning about nature, specifically birds. He loved to draw and made his bedroom into a museum of things from nature and pictures he had drawn of birds. Seabury students are focused and passionate oftentimes in a unique area of study.
  • At the end of each year, he would burn all of his art work, dissatisfied in the quality and wanting to become better. Seabury students are perfectionists. 
  • He didn't do well in school because he failed tests. It was because his teachers were wrong! Seabury students often know more than their teachers. 
  • Scientists of his day believed that small birds hibernated all bundled together in frozen streams. That didn't make sense to him. Seabury students are critical thinkers. 
  • He asked a lot of questions. Seabury students are encouraged to ask tons of questions. 
  • He came up with experiments to answer his questions including tying a string around birds' legs to see if they were the same birds that return in the spring. Inquiry based learning is paramount at Seabury School. 
  • When the birds pecked off the string, he tried again using silver string. Seabury students learn from failures and mistakes. Growth mindset is a character trait that is taught and encouraged.   
  • Audubon's persistence paid off. After working on his drawing and painting skills year after year, his art work became known and admired throughout the world. Grit is the true measure for success at Seabury School. 

After reading the book, we learned about drawing birds and then gave watercolor painting a try. We felt good about our results. We look forward to learning more about birds. 

Sketching first

Color mixing and experimenting with water

John Audubon would have been a great Seabury student. 
He would have thrived here!

Raven and the Box of Daylight at the Museum of Glass

What's inside that strange looking building in Tacoma? The Museum of Glass's hot shop and lots of cool glass art!! ...